Diva: Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema

Angela Dalle Vacche, Georgia Institute of Technology

.The Italian “diva film” of the silent era provided a forum for denouncing social evils and exploring new models of behavior among the sexes. These melodramas of seduction, betrayal, abandonment, and public reputation communicated both the spiritual and the demonic. Oscillating between a vibrant life-force of modernity and a suffering figure of the Catholic mater dolorosa, the diva presented a vision of—if not always a realistic hope for—self-discovery and emancipation. In her presentation, Angela Dalle Vacche will discuss actresses such as Francesca Bertini, Lyda Borelli, and Pina Menichelli to show how the diva film contributed to the modernist development of the “new woman.”